In his book Originals, Adam Grant writes about “ambivalent relationships” – those where you are unsure of whether or not the person is supportive of you. “It takes more emotional energy and coping resources to deal with individuals that are inconsistent,” he writes. Grant says that you must remain constantly on guard in uncertain relationships – thus they are even more unhealthy for you than with negative relationships since there you know where you stand.
Nowhere is the ambivalence more stressful than when it occurs with your boss. If you are unsure that your supervisor has your back and will support you, much energy is wasted as you become tentative in your responses and stifle any creativity for fear of failure. Bosses who are like wheat – leaning one way then suddenly leaning another – cause much duplication and stress for those who must deal with the consequences.
Grant writes; “It is our instinct to sever bad relationships and salvage the ambivalent ones, but evidence suggests we ought to do the opposite.” The constant toll of being in limbo is more emotionally draining than writing off a known negative.
If you have a supervisor or colleague that is wavering in their support, maybe it’s time for you to pursue other options. Don’t be unequivocal about someone who is ambivalent toward you.
I have always been a big believer in the value of meeting with your employees one-to-one. My mantra was that updates could happen informally in the hallway, but for real professional development to take place there needed to be scheduled meetings that went beyond the nuts and bolts of daily operations.
In my supervisor workshops, I frequently encounter supervisors who wonder what there is to talk about if it isn’t about logistical items or tasks. Here is a list of topics that I have shared:
- New skills to develop
- Interests that aren’t being utilized
- Biggest challenges
- Long-term thoughts on what could be done
- Evaluation/debriefing of recent activities
- What changes could be made to the supervisor/supervisee relationship
- What could be stopped/eliminated
- Lessons from something read/listened to/learned lately
- What is good that can be made great
- Feedback/progress since the last evaluation
- What’s the next milestone
- WHY are you doing XYZ
- Why are you NOT doing XYZ
- What do they wish they had the time/resources to do but aren’t
- How is their staff doing/how to help your employee supervise
- The organization’s strategic plan – what is it, how can they tie in
- What is a priority
- How to effectively deploy resources, what resources matter most to them
- Ask: “How can I help you be successful?
I believe there is no better use of your time than to have these types of discussions with those whom you supervise. Make it a priority to meet one-to-one with your staff on a regular (dare I say weekly) basis. Start today by scheduling time on your calendar for this critical capacity-building function.
On this Valentine’s Day, you may be wondering how to express your love to those you care about. Author Gary Chapman can help! He has defined five Love Languages that identify preferred ways of receiving affection. Knowing your preferred “Love Language” and that of others may help you to communicate in a way that is most meaningful.
A simple quiz can help you understand which of the five Love Languages resonate most deeply with you:
- Acts of Service: Having someone offer to help and ease your burden
- Quality Time: Someone being present and giving you their full attention
- Receiving Gifts: Receiving a thoughtful token gift that is tailored to your interests
- Physical Touch: Hugs or literal pats on the back
- Words of Affirmation: Hearing someone share why they love you or why you are important
Chapman has also adapted his languages as a guide for how people can express appreciation to others. In his 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, he offers suggestions on how to apply the concepts to show gratitude to coworkers in a way that resonates with them. The quiz could be a fun icebreaker to discuss at your next staff meeting.
Whether or not you know someone’s preferred Language, it’s important to remember that different people favor different ways of receiving affection or appreciation from you. Become conscious of how you deliver your sentiments and mix up the ways you show others you care.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, 2009
5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, 2011
A recent article predicts that widespread use of autonomous cars is still at least a decade off – in large part because of weather. The cameras and sensors can’t see through snow or rain and they do not know where to go if the lane lines are covered — thus human intervention is required.
It sounded a lot like supervision to me: employees can “drive” on their own if conditions are ideal, the lanes are well marked and the curbs are in place, but when facing unlined roads, challenging weather or unforeseen obstacles, suddenly “autonomous” isn’t appropriate anymore.
As a supervisor, you should work like the researchers and identify situations whereby your “vehicle” can operate with reliability on their own and dedicate extra attention to the conditions that are likely to cause uncertainty and require your intervention. Autonomous may be the goal for cars and for employees, but so far, neither can operate effectively on their own.
Source: Why autonomous cars aren’t coming anytime soon by Tom Krisher for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, February 10, 2019, p. 7D.
First, the Midwest was besieged by snow, then frigid temperatures and then ice. I think most believe that ice is the worst of all the conditions – first, because you have no control when driving on it, and second because there are so many times when you can’t even tell it is there.
Ice is the invisible hazard; it seems like the road or sidewalk is clear, but a thin layer of danger lurks that makes forging ahead almost impossible.
In many organizations, there is a toxic employee that acts like ice. On the surface, things appear to be normal but what is underneath impedes progress. Others proceed as if conditions are fine – as if there are no objections to a change – but then slip and fall because of the unseen ice, or at best they are only able to move forward at a significantly reduced pace.
Those in the organization who act like rain or snow and make their presence (and opinions) visible are far easier to deal with than those who remain icy silent. It is often what is not seen or what is left unsaid that causes the real damage.
If you’re an organizational leader, you need to proactively apply the equivalent of sand or salt to mitigate the impact of ice on your efforts. Don’t let people skate by who create the invisible barrier to your progress.
Yesterday, the wind chill factor was 52 degrees below zero but if I wasn’t listening to the news, I would have never known it. I stayed inside all day – where my house was the same temperature as always, pipes functioned properly, and I wore the same layers of clothes. It was a sunny day outside, and inside business was as usual.
While the view from the window may have been pleasant, the conditions in the environment were not. The sun was deceiving as the wind chills were literally life-threatening. The Weather Service estimated that frostbite could occur in five minutes of exposure.
The polar vortex is a metaphor for what often occurs in organizations as leaders try to garner support from employees about the changes that are necessary. They are preaching the equivalent of “it’s cold outside” or “climate conditions are altered” but all the employees see is the sun and normal operations.
As thought leader John Kotter says, you must first create a sense of urgency before any transformation effort will succeed. Leaders must share the thermometers and stories about the implications. They must point out the ice on the inside windows and make note of the canceled mail service. Employees should listen to the news and be inconvenienced by rescheduling or altered conditions.
If you’re leading a change effort, create a way for the employees to feel the chill without getting frostbitten by it. Business as usual in unusual circumstances won’t help you transform.
A student in my class shared a simple three-question format that her employer uses to allow employees to give feedback to their bosses. People provide answers to these prompts:
What would you like your boss to start doing?
What would you like your boss to stop doing?
What would you like your boss to continue doing?
The format could be adapted to so many other settings: the boss to the employee, colleague to colleague, parent to child, spouse to spouse, etc. It could also have broader applications as to what task a person would like to start/stop/continue doing in their current role, what facet of vacation was resonating with the traveler or how effectively a class was being taught.
With the younger generations asking for more frequent feedback at work, this is an easy yet effective way to provide it. Don’t wait for an annual review process or require lofty forms – just answer these three questions to begin a conversation that quickly gets at the essence of desired behavior.